China scores rare double gold, U.S. earns silver at Chess Olympiad

October 9, 2018

For the first time in more than three decades, one nation went home with two team gold medals at the biennial Chess Olympiad this year.

China’s open and women’s squads achieved the rare double last pulled off by the Soviet Union in 1986 at the 43rd Olympiad that ended Saturday in Batumi, Georgia. The defending champion and top-seeded U.S. open team fell just short on tiebreaks for the silver medal, with Russia third.

China’s powerful women’s team, meanwhile, took home its second straight gold and 13th medal in the last 14 Olympiads, edging Ukraine on tiebreaks with the hometown Georgia team taking the bronze. A last-round 3-1 loss to Ukraine hurt the U.S. women’s chances, still leaving them with a respectable seventh-place finish.

Worthy of mention was the superb performance of Poland’s open team, which was the surprise leader for most of the event, played the hardest schedule, and beat such powerhouse teams as Russia, the U.S., France and Ukraine. A key game of the event was the pairing of Chinese top board GM Ding Liren and 20-year-old Polish standard-bearer GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda in Round 10, with China’s 3-1 match win helping propel them to the gold a round later.

In a sharp QGD line, Ding as White eschews the draw by repetition as the play gets extremely complex: 20. Ra2 Nb4 21. Re2!? a5 22. d5 exd5 23. e6! the best chance to play for the advantage. White antes up a full piece a few moves later with 23...Bd6 24. Qh3 Qf6 25. Nb5! dxc4 26. Nxd6 cxd6 27. e7 Re8 28. Ng5, when Black must deal with both the advanced passed pawn and the multiple threats at h7 and f7; e.g. 28...h6? 29. Qh5! Rxe7 30. Qe8+! leads to mate.

Duda defends aggressively and with 30. Qh4 Qb1! poses some problems of his own for White. But he goes wrong fatally in the complex position on 31. Re1 Bf5? (tougher was 31...Bd7! 32. f3! Nfd5 33. Bxf4 Qc2 [Qxb3?? 34. Qxh7 mate] 34. bxc4 Nxf4 35. Qxf4 Qf5 36. Qxf5 Bxf5 37. Rd8 Bg6 38. Red1, though White has an edge) 32. Rd8! Bg6 (Rexd8 33. Nf7+ Kg8 34. Nxd8 h6 35. Qxh6! gxh6 36. e8=Q+ Kg7 37. Qf7+ Kh8 38. Re8 mate) 33. Rxb8 Rxb8 34. Qxf4, and Black can’t handle the back-rank threats such as the looming 35. Qf8+ Rxf8 36. exf8=Q mate.

The finale: 34...Rg8 35. Nf7+ (Qf7! was also strong) Bxf7 36. Qxf7 Nd7 37. e8=Q Nf6 38. Bg5!, and Black resigned facing 38...Nxe8 (Qg6 [Rxe8 39. Rxb1] 39. Bxf6 Qxf7 40. Qxf7 h6 41. Re8 Rxe8 42. Qxg7 mate) 39. Rxb1 and wins.

GMs Fabiano Caruana and Irina Krush and Virginia FM Jennifer Yu all took home individual medals for the U.S. for their play in Batumi. Krush showed off her technique with some pretty endgame play against Italian IM Elena Sedina in Round 8, part of a 3-1 match win for the American women.

We pick it up from the diagramed position, where Black’s four-to-three pawn advantage on the kingside is often hard to convert to victory. Krush as Black picks the lock with 55...Rb3+ 56. Kf2 Bb5! (imprisoning the White knight) 57. Nc1 Rb1 58. Rc2 Kf4 59. Ne2+, allowing the simplification because 59. Na2 Rf1 is mate.

Black infiltrates decisively by allowing the loss of a pawn with check: 59...Bxe2 60. Rxe2 f5 61. Ra2 e4 62. fxe4 fxe4 63. Ra5 Rb2+ 64. Kf1 e3! 65. Ra3 Kg3!! 66. Rxe3+ Kh2 67. Ra3 (g4 hxg3 68. Re2+ Rxe2 69. Kxe2 g2; or 67. Re5 Rxg2 68. Re3 Rg3 69. Rxg3 hxg3 70. Ke2 g2 and wins) Rxg2 68. Rb3 Rg3 69. Rb5 Kxh3 70. Kf2 g4 71. Rb4 Kh2 72. Rf4 h3 73. Ke1 Rg1+, and the pawns can’t be stopped; White resigned.

Ding-Duda, 43rd Olympiad, Batumi, Georgia, October 2018

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. e4 b5 6. e5 Nd5 7. Nxb5 Nb6 8. Be2 Nc6 9. O-O Be7 10. Qd2 O-O 11. Qf4 Rb8 12. Nc3 f5 13. Qg3 Kh8 14. Rd1 Nb4 15. b3 cxb3 16. axb3 a6 17. Bc4 Nc2 18. Ra2 Nb4 19. Ra1 Nc2 20. Ra2 Nb4 21. Re2 a5 22. d5 exd5 23. e6 Bd6 24. Qh3 Qf6 25. Nb5 dxc4 26. Nxd6 cxd6 27. e7 Re8 28. Ng5 Qg6 29. Rxd6 f4 30. Qh4 Qb1 31. Re1 Bf5 32. Rd8 Bg6 33. Rxb8 Rxb8 34. Qxf4 Rg8 35. Nf7+ Bxf7 36. Qxf7 Nd7 37. e8=Q Nf6 38. Bg5 Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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